The Village of Canal Flats would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone that attended the Canal Flats Arena 50th anniversary celebration and everyone who supported the Upper Deck Concession grand opening.
During the Upper Deck renovations, a permit was found stapled inside one of the walls. This permit was issued to Art Yonkman for the first event ever held at the Canal Flats Arena and in a beautiful, full circle moment Art was able to see the upgraded arena and give an informative and moving speech depicting the trials, tribulations, and efforts it took to get the arena to be what it is today.
“The next time you are sitting here watching a game, just take a second to look at all the nuts and bolts in these walls and roof, every single one of them was put in by hand by local volunteers. There must be at least a million of them” Art stated in his speech remembering just how difficult it was to get the company that sold them the original Quonset building that protected the arena ice to allow them to assemble it themselves. “We had the money for the building, but not to get someone else to build it. They weren’t allowed to let us build it ourselves, so they sent one man out to supervise. I think he only stayed one day before he decided we were fine to do it on our own.”
The atmosphere at the anniversary was one of comradery and fond reminiscing. The floor was opened to some of the attendees to share their stories and it brought us back in time. “I think you might be wrong about the number of nuts and bolts here, because I know I did a million just on my own, and I think everyone else working in that heat would tell you they did at least a million too” Dave White joked when asked what he recalled about the construction of the arena. Collin Cartwright recalled the loggers donating 6 weekends of wages to the creation of the arena and it really drove home just how much commitment and community involvement were needed to create this staple that is still used daily in our community.
To see the arena filled with children while hearing about the hurdles that had to be overcome by small town ingenuity inspired hope for the future of the arena. We heard stories about the first season without a Zamboni and how they relied on the children of the community to get the job done. “The kids would volunteer to be “rink rats” and they would have a board that they would scrape across the ice to get the snow up, then they had a barrel they would pull behind them with hot water and flood the ice. We always had volunteers for it, they were just happy to be skating” several community members reminisced about the quick thinking of the esteemed first arena operations manager Jim Harrington. The first Zamboni did not come without its problems. The arena had a tractor that did not have any type of cleats or chains on the tires, and the Zamboni attachment had to be customized to work on the tractor. The maiden voyage during a game made a real impression, after trying to round the first corner the tractor spun out and was stuck. A divot was made on the ice and the teams that were playing had to push it off the ice, but the rink rats skated up and came to the rescue getting the ice repaired and the game back in action. Many remembered with a laugh about the tractor being gas and the arena having no ventilation, that was an issue that was quickly remedied, but an oversight that they all look back on with 20/20 hindsight.
“To see what the arena is today is something that I never could have dreamed of back then.” Art said while looking out at the impressive stadium that we have today. These sentiments were shared by the
current arena operations manager Mathieu Fournier “When I started here twenty plus years ago, I never could have imagined the arena would be what it is today.”
As the event ended it was remarkable to watch as everyone left the Upper Deck and paused at the top of the stairs to take in the arena with a new or renewed appreciation for what our community can accomplish and what 50 years of Canal Flats pride looks like.